Loitongbam Ashalata Devi

India’s national women football team’s captain Loitongbam Ashalata Devi is hopeful that they will play the World Cup much before the men’s team.

In an interview with The News Mill, the sturdy centre back from Manipur said that they have been working hard for the last two years for this dream.

“Our dream is to qualify for the World Cup which is not impossible. I am confident that we will be able to play the World Cup in the next five years. Our Under-17 players are brilliant and after a few years they will be in the senior team. So, I am hopeful that it can happen in the next five-six years. We will be able to play the World Cup before the men’s team,” Ashalata said.

Indian women team is now ranked 55 in the FIFA table. She said that Indian women’s team has improved a lot in the last couple of years with exposure tours. And with at least two mega football events coming up in India, she said, this will hugely benefit the women.

“It has improved a lot in the last two to three years. Earlier, we hardly had the exposure tours. But the last two years have been great. We have been travelling outside to play games. Playing with better teams helps to improve our game,” the 27-year-old said.

Now, with the Indian Women League (IWL) taking place, the level of competitiveness has improved and it also means more tournaments.

India will host FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup from January next year and AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2022.

“Along with that, organizing this kind of bigger tournaments will help us get better infrastructure in our country,” she said.

Ashalata, who became the first centre back to be named the AIFF Player of the Year in 2019, however, said that the women players should get more attention.

“I have always said that women football should also get more attention. As most of the players are from financially poor backgrounds, if the ISL clubs give little importance towards the women teams, it will be a great help towards improving women football. In the IWL, the players do not get paid properly. So, the parents also do not want their daughters to play,” said Ashalata, who played a crucial role in India’s inspiring performance in the AFC 2020 Olympic Qualifiers.

She also alleged that many clubs bargain with the women like buying vegetables in the market.

“We have to bargain and demand. It feels that we are vegetables in the market. They would bargain for a small amount. Many of us have faced this kind of situation. Many players do not even get Rs 1 lakh in a season. The girls do equal hard work like the male players. For a woman player it is very difficult to help their family,” she reckoned.

Citing the example of Ngangom Bala Devi who signed an 18-month deal with Scotland’s Rangers FC to become the first Indian woman to play professionally in Europe, Ashalata said that there are other good players as well who can play outside but they lack proper facilitation.

“There are a good number of players in our team who can easily go outside and play. But for that thing you need good agents and sponsors. Most of the players do not have an agent to look after that part. Many women players even have to buy their supplements. Not everyone has a job. So, it is difficult,” added Ashalata, who has been a great fan of English footballers Alex Scott and Lucy Bronze.

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About Abdul Gani


Abdul Gani is a Guwahati-based journalist